Archive for July, 2012


I’ve long been a fan of music wafting across a college campus. It probably traces back to my hometown, Urbana, Illinois, and alma mater, the University of Illinois. (Gasp. Yes, an editor of a university magazine is allowed to be the graduate of another school.) In the fall, the sound of the Marching Illini could often be heard blowing north from their practice field at the southern edge of campus.

So, when I met up with my wife, Sheila, who teaches statistics at UVM, at the end of work yesterday, I was excited to hear she’d just encountered a bagpiper out on the green practicing away. I grabbed the office Flip camera, eager these days to capture “quotidian” bits of campus life for Facebook posting, and headed over to find Jonathan Besett, a senior from Hardwick, working up a good sweat as he blew on the pipes. Turns out Jonathan is a student of Iain MacHarg ’96 G’99, a pied piper (sorry) of the Vermont piping community. I wrote about Iain a number of years ago. Visiting him in his Marshfield home/teaching studio and hearing him play indoors left a lasting memory of just what an impressive sonic force a bagpipe can be.

Jonathan piping on the Green. 


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Looking through a back issue for an article this afternoon, I came across this short bit on the day Bobby Flay made a surprise visit to campus for his Throwdown program. When I went over to Billings to cover the event in October 2007, I had no idea that Flay would show up. (Truth be told, I had no idea who Bobby Flay was.) But by the end of the afternoon, both he and his lasagna had made me a fan. Mark Bove ’90 and his family restaurant and sauces—I’ve been a fan of theirs for a long time. 


Dueling dishes
Iron Chef vs. Mark Bove

Since 1941, Bove’s Café on Pearl Street in Burlington has been serving Italian food, much of it consumed by hungry UVM students. That history and Grandma Victoria’s lasagna recipe were put to the test on October 12 when celebrity chef Bobby Flay came to town to test his skills against Mark Bove ’90 for a future episode of his “Throwdown” television show.

Flay’s visit was a surprise to Bove, his brother Richard ’86, and their family. Food Network producers led them to believe their sole purpose was taping a new program called “Food for Thought,” which would feature students’ favorite restaurants in five different college towns. Under that ruse, a crowd of students gathered in UVM’s Billings Hall to learn about lasagna making from Bove and grab their own share of fifteen-minutes of fame as members of the “studio” audience.

Midway through the lesson, Flay stepped into Billings unannounced, slipped around Bove, whiffed from a jar of the restaurant’s vodka sauce, and cracked a look that said, “Not bad.” “What’s up, Mark?” Flay asked, as the audience laughed and Bove looked on stunned. “I brought my noodles and ricotta, got on a plane this morning, and came up here to issue you a lasagna throwdown.”

Suddenly, a big day for the Boves had gotten much bigger. Within seconds, another long table for food preparation was set up and four of Flay’s assistant chefs got down to mincing and mixing with the precision of a military operation.

The two judges on the day would hand the “Throwdown” decision to Flay, but they gave props to Bove for his hefty portion and excellent execution of a classic recipe. The Iron Chef himself said Bove’s comfort food reminded him of the lasagna of his childhood: “I’d eat this all day long.”

Biggest winners on the day, though, were the students who lined up for helpings from both chefs. One UVM undergrad, both traditionalist and homer, dug into the local lasagna for the TV cameras and pronounced it superior: “It’s from Vermont and so am I.”

—Thomas Weaver

— Photo by Raj Chawla


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